By Mike McIntyre
The Rogers Cup begins on August 5th in Toronto and the majority of qualifying and main draw participants have recently been announced for the 125th edition of the WTA event. Most of the marquee names in women's tennis will be present with 30 of the top 35 women in the rankings signed-up to play. Newly anointed World No. 1 Karolina Pliskova will be there along with the other members of the top five: Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber, Johanna Konta and Garbine Muguruza.
While Serena Williams is out for the duration of 2017 while expecting her first child this Fall, her sister and recent Wimbledon finalist Venus will be there as will recent returnees to the WTA Tour such as Petra Kvitova, Sloane Stephens, Maria Sharapova (with a wildcard) and Sabine Lisicki (in qualifying).
Aside from Sharapova being announced, another wildcard has already been awarded by Tennis Canada to (no surprise) Canadian Genie Bouchard (69th). With three more still up for grabs, no doubt Frankie Abanda (121st) and 17 year old Bianca Andreescu (156th) are most deserving. That would leave one spot left to be decided. Time will tell if it is also given out to a Canadian player such as veteran Aleksandra Wozniack, doubles specialist Gaby Dabrowski or a younger player like 18 year old Katherine Sebov.
Missing from the main draw are Timea Bacsinszky, Kiki Bertens, Shuai Zheng, Laura Siegemund and Anett Kontaveit.
The qualifying field is so strong that it could be a main draw event in many other cities. Twelve qualifiers will advance into the main draw in Toronto. The qualifying action happens on Saturday August 5th and Sunday August 6th and is once again free to the public this year. It is truly one of the hidden gems in professional tennis and even more so at an event of this calibre. Wimbledon semi-finalist Magdalena Rybarikova leads the pack as the current 33rd ranked player in the world. Veterans such as Andrea Petkovic and Ekaterina Makarova are there as well as younger talent like Ons Jabeur, Saisai Zheng and Jennifer Brady. Also present in qualifying is 2013 Toronto finalist Sorana Cirstea. Six wildcard spots are still yet to be handed-out for the qualifying draw and these normally find their way to lower ranked players from the home country who will understandably have a difficult time making it through.
Players of note who appear to be staying away from qualifying in Toronto include Carina Witthoeft, Jelena Jankovic, Francesca Shiavone, Petra Martic and 2015 champion Belinda Bencic who is still off mending from a wrist injury.